Day one began from Whakatane, central Waikato (in the North Island), and it was steaming, quite literally!
Heavy rain overnight put our departure in a bit of question, but the day dawned overcast and muggy, with wet roads.
By 11am it was a different story! The rain had cleared, the heat had started and the roads were dry. In fact, it hit 28 degrees on the VFR ambient temp, before we left, and there was no sign the rain had ever happened!
We set out for our first stop, Opotiki, and the ride was clear, and uneventful, although a small rattle from the front of the VFR was a bit annoying, but only with the visor up. Solved. Ride with the visor down!
Gassed up at Opotiki, and had our first interaction with the locals at the local Caltex station.
East Cape is mainly made up of Maori population, and they have their own way of doing things. Let's just say that everything you know about manners goes out the window when you ride the cape!
Full of gas, and a bit apprehensive about where our next fuel stop would be (not many stations in the 582km loop), we set off for our first overnight stop at Te Kaha, aprox 65kms from Okpotiki.
Here's the first pic stop at the beach of Waiotahi beach...
A little further up the road we hit rain, and lots of it.
The East Cape is riddled with hills and low mountains, and the clouds were forming at around 500 feet, just about half way up the hills. Damn, wet roads again, and road works which reduced the road to a clay and pock marked road, slippery and narrow, but still (just) 2 lanes... A heavy VFR and Sussan in my mirrors meant concentration was at it's limit, and thankfully the road works ended after a few k's.
As soon as we were clear of the hills, the weather abated, and the roads dried as we descended to the beaches again. A quick stop at Omaio for a snap of the local old church and we were off again to our overnight halt at Te Kaha, where we slummed it in the new resort, Te Kaha Resort, with a pool, in room laundry, and a great sea view!
Te Kaha is a small settlement, with not really much at all. The beaches are rocky, as are many of the western bays, and the services are average at best. We paid NZ$195 for the apartment for the night, and enjoyed a few gins around the pool, some great freshly caught fish in a basket ($13.50) and some nachos which looked like corn chips mixed with cat sick (the same sick the cat ate to get sick again!). Good value though for the kitchen and bar, but the accommodation looks half finished, and no Internet available today. Apparently either everything works, or nothing works, - just like the local Maori's, according to the reception lady (who was indeed a Maori herself!) go figure!
A cute little old church sat next to the resort, and we wandered down a private access road, restricting beach access. Tribal laws still stop the white man entering some beaches.
Another thing I realised. Corn. So much corn. Corn everywhere. I don't know what they use it for, but it is everywhere on the western side of the cape!
Day 2 dawned with perfect blue sky, and sunshine, with not a hint of wind.
We left the resort at Te Kaha around 10am, after doing some very basic bike maintenance, and headed north for breakfast at the Pacific Coast Macadamia's cafe, after hearing good things from the little book we picked up in Opotiki. (pacific coast highway free travelers guide 2010).
We were not disappointed! The macadamia products were exceptional, all grown in the groves of trees, and manufactured by hand at the cafe. Recommend the toasted sandwiches, and paninis, as well as their coffee. Sussan rates the coffee, and for an unknown cafe, that is high praise indeed! This place was a godsend. An oasis of quality in a sea of mediocrity. Parking was plentiful, the surroundings were serene, with the nicest bay of the western coastline of the cape, and the food and coffee was top notch. 10 out of 10.
We walked around the grove of trees for a short while, and then bought some chocolate macadamia treats, for the ride.
Tricky rocky driveway saw the VFR fall off it's side stand, and incur a couple of new scratches... Looks like this will now become a long term tourer... Can think of worse bikes to tour on!
By now the temperatures were getting up, and I decided to ride light. Dropped the gloves to make stopping and grabbing a picture easier, and to aid in keeping me a bit cooler. Suffice to say that had I thought about it properly, I might have also put on some sunscreen!
More awesome roads, lots of 35km corners, and fantastic on camber left right combinations, saw the pace pick up in the very light traffic. So much so we stopped at a one way bridge to snap a pic of the bikes.
A couple of km's further on and we stumbled across Raukokore bay, where one of the oldest catholic churches stands.
More awesome roads, and beautiful scenery passed as we dropped into Waihau bay to post some letters, and top up the tanks. Fuel was expected to be sparse, but we seem to be doin ok so far! A bit shocked at the cost per litre at $2.21, when main cities are hovering around the $2.03 mark, but happy to be full of fuel and not have to worry about it again for another 270 odd km's. Met a couple of older dudes on their bandit's (blokes) who were looking like they were either brothers out for some bonding time, or a nice middle aged gay couple (they were riding matching coloured bandits after all?).
We expected to be staying in Lottin Point overnight, but found that although the bay looks nice, there only seemed to be a camping ground, and only after several km's of long dusty roads did we give up at the beach. I figured if it was that great a place to stay, there would have been a motel at the beach at the bottom. Not so. We got back onto the main road and headed for Hicks bay, where I nearly hit gravel at well over 125km/hr. Note to self. Make sure the road in the distance IS ACTUALLY sealed before committing to it!
A quick ride over the hill to lunch at Te Araroa, and the highly recommended East Cape Manuka Centre and Cafe, saw us top up our bellies on a pure strawberry smoothie, and a tuna roll. Fantastic! 10 out of 10 for the East Cape Manuka Centre and Cafe. The staff were awesome, bike friendly parking, well signposted, friendly staff who bent over backwards for us (I got a bee stuck in my helmet stinging away happily, and they made a big fuss of getting me well again, even though it was only a mild irritation). We decided to have breakfast here again the following day, once we left the Hicks bay motel lodge.
Bee given a farewell burial after being fished out of my helmet, and it was back on the road.
Back over the hill towards Hicks bay, we decided to try the Hicks Bay Motor Lodge, a 60's vintage motel, in every conceivable way. It's almost like time stood still for the last 50 years. No telecom reception, so no mobile phones. It reminded me of a cross between a camp ground and stalag 13. To call this a lodge, is selling all other lodges short.
The basic room is completely out of the 60's, with Formica tables, an old kelvinator fridge, furniture, and an old teapot from my grandma's kitchen. Either someone scoured the retro shops, or this place has been stuck in a vacuum. Some may call it quaint, but for $100 a night, I expected a little bit more. For $185 a night you can have a 2 room room, and judging from the quality of our room, you would be crazy to pay that for this place. In fact, I think unless it was the only place left on earth, I won't be flushing that toilet again, ever!
I decided to cool off in the pool, and felt like I de-Loussed at the same time. There was so much chlorine in the pool to combat all the things floating in it, I think my skin got bleached, and I will smell like a hospital laundry for a week. At least it was cold, and cooled me off... For a while!
Dinner was a treat, in the same way that crabs is fun.
Drinks started out with a gin and tonic (still not sure they put gin in the glass) and I had to tell them how to make it and with what mixers. Seagers gin is not known for it's top class qualities, so I won't bash it, but it would have been nice to taste it a little!
We decided on an order of fresh fish with fries and salad, and an order of chicken schnitzel, with fries and salad. Not meaning to be offensive to chickens, the chicken schnitzel looked like reconstituted beef patty, and the (fresh) fish might have been swimming a year or so ago, if it was lucky. Probably more like last century! The salad was 90% lettuce, with a sliver of apple and orange, and 3 pieces of onion (the onion was actually ok!). I expected to be seeing it again by 10pm, but nothing as yet... (10.19pm as I write this). All that for $70.
Check out was fun. Apparently we needed to pay the dinner bill at the same time as the room bill, meaning you check out at your last meal. We paid for the room, and the dinner and drinks at 7.30pm, and were told to leave the key in the room when we left at no later than 10am. With that we hit the room to occupy ourselves...
Funny aside. The waitress LOOKED like she was 9 years old but EXTREMELY well formed (if you know what I mean). She was hard to understand (mumbler), below average size (a little over tabletop height), and not very concerned about the quality of the meal. A bit disappointing...
Day 3 was a race to escape the clutches of the evil Hicks bay motel and lodge, and after a quick fiddle (with the suspension of the VFR) we hit the road, back to the Manuka cafe for some brecky.
Still can't wax on about this place enough. The people are so friendly, and the food is tasty, and great value. The smoothies are legendary, and if you get a chance, then try the blueberry and boysenberry mixed smoothie.
From there it was down the road to Te Araroa, for a peak at the sea, and the worlds biggest Pohutakawa tree. After a quick pic, we made for the highway 35, and on to Tikitiki, then the Rastafarian capital of NZ, Ruatoria.
Highway 35 from Te Araroa is a mix of tight twisty roads, punctuated by looooooong straights, however, there are plenty of one way bridges, and uneven surfaces, from temporary repairs made several years ago, meaning the road can have major bumps almost without any notice! Thankfully I had softened the suspension a bit, and soaked up the worst of it, pretty well, except for one part which got me out of the saddle for a second or two. Pucker factor 8. Would love to do this stretch again, especially if the road ever gets repaired!
We blew through Tikitiki in no time, and then decided we would head through to Ruatoria for gas and tyre air, as the SV looked a bit soft in the rear.
Been a while since I saw Ruatoria, and the town is way smaller than I remembered it. Apparently most of the buildings have been burnt down, so the town has shrunk.
The local G.A.S station looked like it should be open, pumps in place, and on a prominent site, however the locals told us that it had been closed for a couple of years, so to head to the foursquare, and buy fuel there. The G.A.S. Station looked just like it was closed on a Sunday, and would reopen on Monday!
Ok, so we did. $2.15 p/l for 91 gas, and a very friendly dude who looked like the foursquare owner told us that the town is definitely shrinking. 20 years ago there used to be about 900 residents, now there are about 700 left. I guess that's what happens when you burn down the residents houses, they get displaced to somewhere else. It didn't stop WINZ putting in an area office to deal with the high number of unemployed! Wonder how their workload is?
Ruatoria was kind to us, and let us leave in one piece, and with that we bailed for Tokomaru bay, via Te Puia Springs.
These roads were some of the nicest I have seen yet. Undulating curves, through the hills, with mixed radius corners. Still lots of 35, 45, and 55km/hr signs, but nothing a bit more lean never fixed!
A bit of hill weather hit us again, and then we ran into a hundred cows meandering down the road. No rush from murray and the girls. Thankfully a car warned us of something up ahead, and gave us enough time to slow down before looming on it over the next brow.
Maisy and her daughters took what seemed like forever to move, and even the odd rev from the V4 and the twin didn't seem to motivate them much!
Felt like a steak for the rest of the day after this.
Past without incident, we plodded on to Tokomaru bay, for what would hopefully be our overnight rest stop, no idea where yet, just a vague plan.
Tokes arrived just in time, as more rain started to move in, and we rode right down to the left hand end of the beach, by the long wharf, where we stumbled across the Ruins Accommodation, site.
The Ruins, is run by Marlene, and comprises of 2 cabins made up from a caravan, and small shack, and sits among the ruins of the old abattoir from the early 1900's.
A sea of Formica and linoleum made up the 60's vintage caravan, along with a 5 foot 11 bed (at 6 feet tall this was a bit annoying), and a small shack like kitchen and dining area. It was so quaint, and different, I will always remember it. Highly recommended experience, and one I will repeat sometime in the future. $90 a night meant an experience we thought was value, as opposed to $100 a night at the flea pit they call the Hicks Bay Motel and Lodge.
The history fascinates me, and the old buildings are still recognizable as large concrete warehouses.
The ruins has a couple of very old cars that died where they sat, and still reeked of the olden times, with double red brick walls, huge windows, and new trees that made their way through the concrete floors.
A veeeeery long wharf heads out to sea, and was where the kill was sent from. The wharf is a couple of hundred meters long, and only about a car length in width.
We decided to have a small tour 2 up on the SV, and went to both ends of the beach (aprox 7kms long) to gaze at the old buildings (lots of old art deco buildings just abandoned when the meat plant wound down). You could definitely tell the place used to hum, just not anymore.
Time for some late lunch, so we hit the local tavern, the Te Puna tavern, and ordered a steak burger, and a pea, pie, and pud combination. We nearly died of hunger waiting for the food to arrive, and were getting a bit annoyed, especially as they charged $2 per 15 minutes for Internet access, to wile away the time.
Entertainment abounded as we waited, just watching the world go by outside. I caught a local on horseback ride past, and could have sworn it was a less than glamourous woman, but Sussan corrected me later to let me know it was just a boy with breasts.
I can honestly say we had a rubbish experience, and put it down to a one off, and let them have it, this time. The steak burger had wafer thin steak, in a frozen bread bun, and the pie combination had been nuked a handful of times, so many in fact, that apparently meat can melt if the heat is too intense. Sussan sent her meal back to be reheated (again) and when it came back the meat had melted like cheese! Whodathunkit...!
Dinner later on, would give them another chance to impress, so we ate through it, and gritted our teeth.
Dinner time arrived and we were so hungry, it was back on the SV, and off to the tavern for a mixed seafood plate, and a braised chicken wrapped in bacon, in a light wine jus.
2 cheap drinks ($5 spirits) each later, and still no dinner. Suddenly the cooker arrived to say they were out of vegetables. "Would we mind salad with our meals?"
Is salad not a vegetable?
How the hell can a restaurant run out of veggies?
I put this down to the high cost and worldwide shortage of corn, global warming, and old labour party politics, and instantly forgave them for the oversight.
It was about then that I noticed the nearly nude overweight maori fella in the bar, the large party of locals drinking in the lounge, and the hunting, fishing, and general killing magazines in the restaurant, that I wondered if we might stand out a bit.
Even worse, had anyone ever ordered the braised chicken wrapped in bacon in a light wine jus?
I instantly had visions of the kitchen (chef/cooker/dishwasher) panicking about how to make such a dish, or worse, what they could use as a chicken substitute, as chickens seem to be rarer than kryptonite on the coast. Fish rules the coast, and beef, and chicken are priced like rare metals.
Fortunately, a partial bird was sourced (age and nationality unknown) the meal arrived, and the seafood platter was the pick of the 2 meals. My braised chicken wrapped in bacon in a light wine jus was drier than an Arizona desert, the bacon no longer resembled anything a pig could have given it's life for, and the jus, was vinegar. Go figure.
Unfortunately there is not a lot of competition for food services in Tokes, so it's the only game in town. Dinner was about as much fun as herpes, but there seemed little point in making the chef aware of our disappointment (and I use the word chef extremely loosely). At $25 for the meals (each) I expected more. Sorry Tokes, I'll only ever remember the crappy food from here on in...!
On another note, I have noticed that since we arrived a couple of days ago, absolutely every meal has deep fried fatty chips attached to it. I am now more than a little sick of getting fat soaked chips on my plate, and am now craving the greens of planet salad. Maybe I am a closet weed loving vegetarian after all! I could just about be, after a meal at the Te Puna Tav!
If you want a recommendation for food in Tokomaru bay, here it is. Absolutely anywhere else would be a better alternative than eating here. I would almost eat my own eyeballs, rather than eat at the Te Puna Tavern again.
Finally, just to round out the day, I pulled the zip off my Aplinestars jacket, but managed to fix it with my leatherman multi tool. Finally used one of my tools, on my multi tool thingy.
10.38pm. Digestion update for the day:
Chicken substitute is now well at war with the fish products, and looking likely to win out. Fish about to surrender their contents, and am hoping this will allow me to sleep...
Day 4 started with a shower of rain, and then more rain, and more rain.
The night in the caravan was a bit unusual, it's been years since I caravanned it, and forgot about the closeness of the bedding, the noises outside, and the weather banging on the roof.
So it was with a twisted spine, and still a bit tired, I mounted up, and we set off after an hour chatting to Marlene, getting the history of the bay.
I was so looking forward to seeing an Anaura bay on the way to Tolaga bay, but i was so hungry, that we just headed straight to Tolaga for breakfast at around 10.30am.
After breakfast, and a full tummy from some crappy bakery, we needed proper coffee, so Re-did the coffee part of breakfast at a place called Marie's cafe, attached to the inn. Coffee much better, caffeine fix taken care of, and back on the road for some unfinished business at Anaura bay.
Anaura bay promised plenty of nice scenery, and we saw a great B&B called Rangimarie B&B, however it was closed, so we bailed.
What an awesome road from the highway 35, down to Anaura bay. Tight twists, and medium speed corners, no other traffic, and lots of visibility. Nirvana.
Back on the highway, and disappointed with Tolaga bay, (lots of history here as captain Cook first landed here in the 1800's, but nothing to see and do really at all) not to mention the bloody rain, we stopped briefly at the historic wharf that is 660m long, but just too lazy to go down it. I really wanted to hit the road, and experience some more of the highway awesomeness that I had come to expect thus far.
This proved to be the second disappointment of the day, with battle scarred roads left victim of the logging trucks, and cattle trucks.
What a crappy ride through the rain, and the bucket sized holes in the road. I couldn't wait for it to end! Thankfully, we chose is time to experience all of our police sightings to date, and every time we saw a cop, we were at low speed avoiding the holes in the road, and the slippery muck the trucks left behind!
We decided to keep going until either: we found some good quality accommodation, or we got so tired and bored we fell off.
Thankfully no injuries, but was very happy to see civilization in the form of Wainui beach, Gisbornes eastern beach that stretches for miles and miles! By chance we stumbled across the Chalet Rendezvous B&B and checked bikes into the carport, while we dried out in a room. B&B is a bit of a stretch, as it is mainly backpacker accommodation, but we had the run of the entire upstairs lounge, kitchen, and bathrooms, so we didn't care much. Roll on tomorrow!
Not ready to go home yet, was the overwhelming opinion, so we decided to blow Gisborne, and head south to a place we heard about called Mahia.
A quick coffee stop at the Wharf Cafe and Bar down by (strangely enough) the wharves, turned into lunch, and I had the best steak sandwich ever! Finally meat and a salad without a full plate of bloody deep fried chips! Allpress coffee, and a freshly squeezed orange juice (oh how I missed thee) and our culinary cravings were once again taken care of.
Thankfully the road south was a lot better than the day before, with less truck traffic, dry roads, and no sign of rain (14-20 degrees variation outside air temp). The traffic we did meet was short lived, and the corners just kept on coming! I could have ridden the Gisborne to Nuhaka road all day it was that good! No police, constant radius corners, polite traffic, long straights, and best of all nice scenery made the ride enjoyable, and the speed under control (mostly).
The only fright I got was when Sussan disappeared from my mirrors. Turned out she was desperate for the bog, so stopped in the forest to chat to nature. Backtracked to find the bike on a layaway, and a trail of helmet and gloves leading to a fence line.
The turnoff to Mahia came quickly, and the roads got even better, albeit a bit narrower! A left turn at Nuhaka took us to the best scenery so far. About 6kms in, the road is handed back to the coastline, and the first view of the Hawkes Bay was one that I will remember forever! The water was almost teal in colour, and the sky was a burning blue, yellow tussock trimmed the coastline, and the sands were the whitest white I have ever seen. Had to stop for pictures (lots of them) and enough time to take it all in.
Mania arrived pretty quickly (only about 10 km's in from the Nuhaka turnoff) and we did a lap of the coast road, around the peninsula as fas as we could. There are 2 roads around the Mahia peninsula, and they don't meet up, so you have to do them both to see as much as possible!
Time to work out where to stay, and we lucked upon Cappamore Lodge, a Scandinavian type building, where we had the place to ourselves again (gotta love traveling mid week) in an 2 level log cabin, complete with grizzly bear calendar (apparently the owners are members of the grizzly bear society and receive their annual calendar).
Owners bill and Margaret O'Connell built the lodge 18 years ago, overlooking the Mahia coastline, and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to stay in the area.
Dinner was an issue though, with only 2 places to choose between on the peninsula, the pub at Mahia beach, and the cafe not 100m away from Cappamore Lodge, we weighed our options and went with the local cafe.
Better book your meal (choose what you want to eat, and then book a time to turn up) as the staff cater to their guests on a daily basis. I loved the style of this, as we were lead into the kitchen for a full explanation on the menu, shown the raw materials that make up dinner, and then told about some of the possible options (I couldn't make up my mind between the seared salmon, and the curried sausages on rice, so they handily booked me the salmon, and gave me the sausages on rice in a small taster bowl - problem solved!).
Dinner awesome, and very reasonably priced.
We were sad to leave the Swiss cabin, but decided that we would push towards Taupo, via Wairoa, and Napier.
The road to Wairoa was fantastic! Once we got back to the highway it was one nice corner after another, and all 35, 45, and 55km corners.
A quick fill at Wairoa, at an automated Caltex station had us good to go to Taupo now, and No reason to stop, other than a toilet or food break.
The Wairoa to Napier road was littered with cattle trucks, dropping their shit on the road, and in my helmet! However, once past the trucks, the corners continued, and we ate up the goodness that unfurled in front of us. Quite a few roadworks, and sudden gravel patches, but other than that, all pretty easy.
Once on the outskirts of Napier, we jumped at the chance for a berry smoothie, and a sandwich at Bayview. A quick toilet stop and we were headed towards Taupo, for a ride I wasn't looking forward to. The cops started straight away. We were in a row of 6 cars, and number 2 was a patrol car. Everyone crawled at 90km/hr until he turned into his secret little hiding place to catch overtaking cars (downhill on an overtaking lane).
Seemed like the ride took forever, and we rocked into Taupo at about 4pm, with a plan to stay there. Nothing presented itself quickly, and there were just too many people in town still.
Ended up in Kinloch, at a last resort B&B run by some bikers who have a spare room, in a very nice, new home, with a view of the lake (Taupo).
Hungry enough to jump at the chance of food, we rode down to the tipsy trout in Kinloch, and ordered some seafood chowder, and lamb shanks. Not that great an experience, as we ordered the lamb shanks without garlic, and it came with garlic... better pop the Losec for later on then. That, and we waited for what seemed like forever for the lamb to arrive, after my seafood chowder.
That night concluded our travels, and the road back to Auckland was dry, smooth and uneventful, all in all a great trip, and one I would highly recommend to anyone who makes NZ their next riding holiday!